Joel Makin faces Diego Elias as he seeks his first Platinum final
By ALAN THATCHER and MATT COLES
World No.9 Mostafa Asal is through to the semi-finals of the Qatar QTerminals Classic after outlasting fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen in a 114-minute battle at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha.
Momen’s movement was impaired in the fifth game after a collision late in the fourth, for which Asal received a penalty stroke.
We now await another feisty affair when Momen meets New Zealand’s Paul Coll in the semi-finals. In the other half of the draw, Welshman Joel Makin will be aiming to reach his first Platinum final when he faces Peru’s Diego Elias.
There is plenty of history between Momen and Asal, with Momen commenting on Asal’s conduct on social media after their match at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals in June. Earlier this month at the U.S.Open, 20-year-old Asal came back from two games down to capture his first Platinum title (and deny Momen his first) in Philadelphia.
There was certainly no love lost between the pair on court today, with Asal winning a captivating – albeit scrappy at times – battle by a 4-11, 12-10, 11-9, 12-14, 11-4 margin after almost two hours of combat.
Once again it was World No.4 Momen, the man who claimed the PSA World Championships crown on this court two years ago, who got off to a fast start, winning the first game 11-4. He then had his chances in the second game, but Asal took it 12-10 to level the contest up at one game apiece.
A frustrated Asal’s anger with some of the decisions boiled over in the second game when he was penalised with a conduct warning for repeated discussions with the referee.
Asal found himself three game balls down and on the verge of another two-game deficit, but he fought back to level and then held a game ball of his own. At that point, Momen deserves credit for his sportsmanship, which saw him confirm Asal had hit him during his swing after his opponent had been given a no let against him.
However, that handed the game ball back to Asal, who made no mistake to level the scores. The match started to hot up in the third game, with more stoppages and refereeing decisions breaking play up, but the World No.9 kept his head and he took the third before holding a 10-6 lead in the fourth game.
Momen struggled in the fourth game after falling 8-2 behind, but showed grit and determination to bring the scores back to 10-10 and another tie-break. There was then a big collision when Momen was tripped by an outstretched leg from Asal.
The result was an injury break for Momen – which required 20 minutes of treatment – and a stroke given against Asal to punish him for his movement. Incredibly, Momen returned to win the game and force a decider. But eventually his movement dropped off and Asal closed out the win to set up a mouthwatering semi-final fixture with Coll, who he has beaten in all three of their PSA matches so far.
Asal and Coll have also figured in some long, colourful battles, with Coll unhappy at Asal’s winning celebrations on court after their first match. Here, the young Egyptian unveiled a newly-choreographed breakdance routine at the end of the match before telling the audience that he felt Momen should have retired because of his injury.
In the heat of the moment, Asal may perhaps have missed the irony that his outstretched leg actually caused the injury to his opponent.
He said: “I always believe if you have anything (wrong with you) you should retire. That’s what I did with Ali (Farag) and it was the end of the game. It’s very tricky to play like that and I’m glad to move through. I wish him a speedy recovery, but I believe if you have anything you should retire.
“I’m facing my shoulder every single tournament and every single match. I’m responsible for my decision (because) my physio in Egypt said not to play the tournaments. He told me to rest and not play, but I said that if there was a percentage for me to play then I will play.
“If I lose I will not say to people that I’m injured. The first time in my career, professional or junior, was with Ali (at the Oracle NetSuite Open) and it was the end of the game. There was only one point to win the match. I always love to play but if you have issues and you can’t continue then you should shake hands.
“I’m glad to move through and I’m very pleased with my performance today. At the beginning I wasn’t playing my best squash, but then I started to play the squash I played at the U.S. Open. In the matches I’m getting better and better.”
Coll also came through his quarter-final contest in five games, in an absorbing clash with Egypt’s World No.15 Mohamed Abouelghar, with the Kiwi having to win the last two games to advance to the last four in Doha.
The World No.3 started strongly, winning the first game comfortably, but Abouelghar fought back in the second, and showed the fluid squash that took him inside the world’s top 10 a couple of years ago.
The Egyptian then held on to take the third game as well, before leading 10-8 in the fourth. However, he was unable to get across the finishing line, with the Kiwi saving two match balls, before taking the tie-break 12-10. Coll was able to outlast the Egyptian in the decider to take the victory after 93 minutes of superb squash, and make it into the semis in Qatar once again.
Coll said: “It was an enjoyable match to be a part of and it was high quality. I was a little bit disappointed with some of the leads I had throughout the match, especially the third, when I didn’t close it out. Things kept going the wrong way for me, so it was a real mental battle. At the start of the fourth I went down 6-1. I thought I was playing good squash but not winning rallies.
“I had to really stick to it mentally, dig deep and push through. I felt like it was close to me playing well and running away with it, there were a few leads here and there and a few shots that didn’t go my way. But I’m very happy to close it out and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“It’s a lot more enjoyable when it comes down to good, quality squash. I know he’s a fair player and it was a really enjoyable match, it’s what I play squash for. I’ve got a little one-second rule where I take time, slow everything down, slow my heart rate and my thoughts down because it could easily have run away from me there. It was all about calming down and not panicking.”
The other semi-final will see Peru’s World No.8 Elias and Welshman Makin go head-to-head for a spot in the final, after they got the better of Germany’s Raphael Kandra and Egypt’s Mazen Hesham.
Makin is through to the Qatar semi-finals for the first time after he overcame world No.13 Hesham in just 29 minutes.
Hesham proved to be a thorn in Makin’s side in the opening stages as he produced a number of eye-catching winners, but he followed that up with too many errors to let his opponent back into the match.
Makin made no mistake in closing out the first game, and Hesham was clearly injured in the second and third games as his movement died off.
This 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 victory takes Makin through to back-to-back Platinum semi-finals for the first time after a run to the U.S. Open last four earlier this month.
Makin, who eyes up a first Platinum final, said: “I thought he was struggling with his body. “It didn’t look like it in the first game though, he was moving pretty well and whatever serve variation I tried to do, he seemed to hit a good shot off it. I had to keep mixing that up and tried to make things difficult for him. You never know what you’re going to get when someone is injured but I closed it down alright and used a bit of height, so I’m happy with that.
“I was disappointed with my form during the summer, it wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but I came out in America and put together the sort of squash I know I can play. I’m getting through to the semi finals now and I want to keep getting these wins. I’m fresh going into a match with Diego who has had some tough matches, so I’ll put some work into him and see what I can do.
“Sometimes if your squash isn’t that good you’ve got to push through matches. Mazen, Youssef Ibrahim, they all play disruptive squash and you’ve just got to hang in sometimes to get those wins when you’re not feeling good. When you do, it’s really enjoyable, and when your squash is coming together and you’re into the later stages without that tough match, there is an opportunity here this week for sure.”
Elias beat Kandra 11-9, 8-11, 14-12, 11-1 in 63 minutes, finishing with a flourish after a tired-looking Kandra’s request for an injury break at the start of the fourth game was denied by the referee.
The German left-hander’s movement slowly broke down the longer the game wore on, with Elias closing it out with the loss of a single point.
Elias revealed: “I’m playing very far from my best this week. I haven’t been playing well, but I’m very happy with the way I’ve closed out every match. I kept fighting to the end and maybe in the past it would have been different and I would have just given up and gone home.
“Now, it’s different. I think I’m ready to win tournaments, and I’m happy with this performance.
“I reached my first (Major) semi-final here in Qatar. Now it’s time to reach my first final.”
The semi-finals of the Qatar QTerminals Classic take place tomorrow (Friday October 22) with play starting at 4pm local time (three hours ahead of the UK).
Qatar QTerminals Classic 2021, Khalifa Tennis and Squash Centre, Doha.
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 (29m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 11-9, 8-11, 14-12, 11-1 (63m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-2: 4-11, 12-10, 11-9, 12-14, 11-4 (114m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 4-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8 (93m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) v  Diego Elias (PER)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA